The American Vision © 2010
A Time of Change, 1980-2000
This chapter follows the technological revolution and the rising trend of globalization. It also looks at the presidency of Bill Clinton and a new wave of immigration.
Section 1 explores the technological revolution and its impact on Americans' lives. With the introduction of the world's first electronic digital computer in 1946, a technological revolution began. Integrated circuits led to microprocessors, and Silicon Valley soon became the breeding ground of innovation. In 1977 the first practical and affordable home computer came in the shape of an Apple II. Another Apple, this time a Macintosh, brought a revolutionary operating system. After Bill Gates introduced "Windows," the sales of personal computers, and his Microsoft stock, skyrocketed. By the late 1990s, computers were seemingly everywhere, transforming the workplace, telecommunications, and medicine. The telecommunications industry experienced its own revolution as deregulation led to competition, and a worldwide communications system changed the way people kept in touch. The Internet created new ways for people to communicate and do business.
Section 2 describes the presidency of Bill Clinton. Bill Clinton came to Washington armed with an ambitious domestic agenda. While many of his plans succeeded, such as the Medical Leave Act, Americorps, and gun control, he was unable to win support for his healthcare plan. Republicans gained control of both houses of Congress, but they couldn't garner support for their Contract with America. When Republicans clashed with Clinton over the federal budget, Clinton allowed the government to shut down. Soon afterward, Clinton and Congress agreed on a balanced budget, a health coverage bill, and welfare reform. A bustling economy helped Clinton win reelection in 1996, and Clinton used his second term to address children's needs. In foreign policy, Clinton intervened in Haiti and more than once used force to bring an end to regional conflicts in southeastern Europe. However, his plan to broker peace in the Middle East failed when talks broke down. Two scandals tinged Clinton's presidency, with one going as far as an impeachment vote. The votes fell short of the required two-thirds majority, but Clinton's reputation had suffered.
Section 3 discusses the wave of immigration that occurred during the late twentieth century. The Immigration Act of 1965 had widespread effects and led to a big jump in immigration. Non-European countries became the primary source of immigrants, and migration chains provided a magnet for new arrivals. Illegal immigration became a more significant problem and led to legislation in 1986 and, again, in 1996. During the presidency of George W. Bush, immigration became a national issue yet again. Conservative Republicans favored tough policies such as building a wall along the Mexican border. Latinos held huge rallies to draw support for their rights.
Section 4 discusses how growing economic globalization impacted the United States. By the 1990s, the debate about international trade had become an important political issue. Increasingly, American industry participated in a global marketplace, and it needed to find efficient, effective ways to compete. In 1994 the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) joined the United States, Canada, and Mexico in a free-trade zone. NAFTA dramatically increased U.S. exports to these two nations and helped the United States face competitive trade blocs in Europe and Asia. The World Trade Organization (WTO) promoted a global economy by administering international trade agreements and helping settle trade disputes. Even China participated in trade operations after President Clinton argued that regularizing trade with China would help bring it into the world community. The new global community began to act together to address such worldwide concerns.